By JOCELYN NOVECK, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — When Dorothy Twinney first saw a Race for the Cure walk for breast cancer — "a sea of pink" traveling through her hometown of Plymouth, Mich. — she was so moved she sat in her car and wept.
This week, after watching The Susan G. Komen for the Cure breast cancer charity announce plans to cut funding to Planned Parenthood, then abandon those plans amid a public furor, Twinney decided she was done with the organization for which she raised thousands of dollars on three-day, 60-mile walks that left her feet bloodied and blistered, but her spirits high.
"It just feels like it's all tarnished now," the 41-year-old mother of two said. "Honestly, I'm not sure what they can do to change that."
At week's end, many longtime Komen supporters were feeling similarly conflicted. Some, depending on where they stood on the hot-button issue of abortion, called it more of a betrayal. Those who supported Komen's grants to Planned Parenthood for breast-cancer screenings called the initial move to cut them politically motivated; those opposed to the grants said the same thing about the reversal.
The outrage clearly stunned Komen, the country's most widely known breast cancer organization. "I think (Komen) has been horrified to be so caught up in this culture war," said Eric Scheidler, executive director of the Chicago-based Pro-Life Action League.
Many women described feeling caught in the middle when The Associated Press first reported on Tuesday that Komen had adopted criteria excluding Planned Parenthood from future breast screening grants because it was the subject of an investigation launched by a Florida congressman at the urging of anti-abortion groups. The grants totaled $680,000 in 2011.
Alyce Lee-Walker was one of them. A longtime Komen supporter, she'd never given money to Planned Parenthood. But when she learned of the funding cut, she immediately went online to donate $188 — the 88 signifying good luck in Chinese.
She didn't stop there. The small business owner from Pinehurst, N.C., went about removing all the pink-ribbon stickers, a Komen symbol, that she'd affixed to her belongings.
"I took them off my personal car, the business car, off the doors in the office," she said. And that pink chef's knife she bought at Williams-Sonoma, with some of the proceeds going to Komen? "I'm done with that, too," she said.
When she worked on Wall Street, Lee-Walker once prowled the trading floor soliciting donations "from anyone who loved a sister, mother, wife — or who was a fan of breasts," she quips. She raised $15,000. But now, Komen's reversal as well as its original move left her disgusted, she said: "It's all political."
Many shared that skepticism. "I'm wondering, is this really what they believe now, or is it just all the bad press that made them do it?" asked Mary Gauvin, a 27-year-old mother from Fort Drum, N.Y. "I doubt their motivation a bit."
Gauvin, a supporter in the past of both Planned Parenthood and Komen, said that now, if a friend asked for sponsorship in a Race for the Cure event, she would offer to give money instead to the American Cancer Society.
Also switching allegiance was Suzanne Strempek Shea, a novelist and college writing teacher in Northampton, Mass. "If someone asks me to sponsor them," she said, "I'm going to say, 'I wish you well, but I'm going to give the amount I'd have given you to Rays of Hope," another breast cancer support group.
The issue was particularly painful to Shea, 51. She is a breast cancer survivor who discovered early warning signs at a Planned Parenthood breast screening (the group does screenings and refers some patients for mammograms).
"They found the cysts that led to the diagnosis. I don't think people realize all the good they do," Shea said. Horrified that a crucial women's health issue had become entwined with the abortion debate, she said that despite the reversal, "I'm still angry."
Even angrier about the reversal were anti-abortion advocates who'd applauded Komen's original move.
"We were very happy to see (Komen) discontinue funding to Planned Parenthood," said Tony Lauinger, state chairman for Oklahomans For Life. "For an entity ... that's trying to prevent breast cancer across the world, it's directly counterproductive that the organization would be giving funds to Planned Parenthood, which is the largest provider of abortions in the country."